Boris at the Bluebird Theater, 5/14/13
The fact that you could hear Atsuo Mizuno's drums or his hype-man shouts at all is a testament to whoever was running sound last night at the Bluebird. With two full Sunn stacks powering Takeshi Ohtani's guitar and a full stack and a half of Orange amps behind Wata, this performance was as powerful and imposing sonically as it was physically.
With incredible clarity, even when Ohtani's speaker cabinets crackled as the lowest of the low end kicked in, the band presented a variety of vibrant sounds, tones, textures and rhythms across the set, and managed to be loud but delicate, and aggressive but also graceful and ethereal.
When the show started, Ohtani and Wata took the stage, and Ohtani leaked out a gritty low end drone as Mizuno strode onstage to much cheering from the crowd before taking his position behind the drum kit. What followed was a kind of black metal, doom and drone punctuated by a crushing dynamic on the first beat, like hitting on the one with an elemental force, instead of something James Brown may have had in mind.
For its roughly ninety-minute set -- no encore, but who could handle that anyway? -- Boris drew from across a wide spectrum of its recent albums, including its 2000 album Flood. The latter provided the most sonically dense, ambient parts of the show, with inspired psychedelic-rock passages.
Introspective music aside, Boris kicked in with some heady rock, like the title track to Pink, "Riot Sugar," and hypnotic, engulfing songs like the closer, "Farewell." But whatever songs it played, Boris, shrouded in fog and light, pulled you into the show with an emotionally engaging delivery lightened only by Mizuno's friendly banter during the handful of moments in the set when he was able to speak.
Ohtani's guitar-and-bass combination instrument seemed to provide a kind of flow of incandescent melody, while Wata's guitar sound was more wiry, spiky and bright. Together the outfit created a sound that hit like an irresistible force of nature, especially with Mizuno not just keeping a steady beat, but accenting the rhythms and textures with power, precision and sensitivity.
Pallbearer at the Bluebird Theater
Pallbearer was a perfect companion band for Boris. The band's own doomy drones were filled with melodies warped by distortion, as the chords and notes sustained before dropping on their own when the feedback reached the peak of the arc before descending into loud noise. This part-organic, part-orchestrated song dynamic really made the band's songs incredibly fluid even as the distortion broke up the tone like magma fresh from the volcano.
Drawing from Sorrow and Extinction, the band put together a set that also contained newer songs. Striking a compelling balance between psychedelia's proclivity for disorientation, doom's heavy atmospheres and the precision of experimental '70s prog, Pallbearer was worthy of its own headlining gig, which just made the whole show even better.
Personal Bias: Boris is one of the few bands that can write really cheesy hard-rock music and music of unbelievable transcendent heaviness and get away with it. None of the cheese was on display tonight. I've seen Sleep, Sunn O))), Mayhem, Neurosis, Melvins and Swans. This was as heavy as any of that, if pretty much a completely different style of music.
Random Detail: Ran into Don White of Captain Howdy, as well as international psych-rock ambassador Brady Weinstein, at the show.
By the Way: When Boris last came through, I interviewed Atsuo Mizuno through a translator and missed the show because I was in Japan while the band was here.
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